Happy fortieth to BtVS! How fitting to ring in the big 4-O with the series’ fortieth episode tailored around the comedic edge and range of Anthony Stewart Head. This is my favorite Giles-centric show so far, easily surpassing a somewhat disappointing The Dark Age, which failed to give us a sufficient feel for our stammering, stuffy librarian’s youthful alter-ego, the infamous Ripper. I complained in reviewing that episode that what we really needed was a flashback, admittedly a daunting task since Stewart Head can’t reasonably pass for a teenager. Jane Espenson, in her first writing credit, finds a workaround with Band Candy, bringing Ripper to us without any cumbersome time travel or a awkward substitution by a younger actor.
Good thing – because I can’t imagine anyone besides Anthony Stewart Head pulling off this kind of cocky charisma and bad-boy charm so successfully. Perhaps he’s even too good; I have a hard time finding Giles in Ripper, and I can’t quite account for the drastic alterations in his accent and speech pattern. Still, I won’t complain. The performance counts as one of my favorite detours into broad humor in the whole series.
In fact, all of Band Candy lands at the top of my “funny episodes” list so far. In addition to Giles’ youthful insouciance and arrogant impulsivity, Espenson treats us to a new dimension of Joyce. We’ve gotten hints of her teen awkwardness in the past, but directly experiencing her anxious flirtations and eagerness to impress a boy beats any softly told tales of yesteryear delivered to Buffy at the kitchen island. Her hopeful query about Seals & Croft to an incredulous Giles while sitting on the floor spinning vinyl = true teenage pain, incongruously, hilariously presented by middle-aged bodies.
Giles is 40, after all!
We know that from the next episode, Revelations, when paramedics wheel him unconscious out of the library after he’s been attacked by Faith’s watcher and they radio in information about the incoming patient, staring with his age.
Forty really is the magic number for band candy. It’s precisely how many chocolate bars each student is charged by Principal Snyder with hawking.
Buffy unloads half of her load to Giles and half to her mother, as if they’d done the same for her with DNA, making all the more priceless the mother/father-ish scene earlier on when the two harangue her as she arrives home from Angel’s after lying to both of them about her whereabouts. The unified force of their somewhat sanctimonious speech has an off-kilter air to it thanks to the nascent effects of the cursed chocolate. Buffy does cock her head at some of the outdated slang they both toss out at her as they tag-team preach. Catching these dialogue treats is a real reward for multiple viewings!
Speaking of dialogue:
Principal Snyder gets some choice moments at The Bronze, where Sunnydale’s middle-aged denizens suffer a glorious collective mid-life crisis, as well as at the chocolate warehouse, where Buffy, Giles, Joyce and the tag-a-long school administrator face off against the most welcome Ethan Rayne.
It’s Robin Sachs’ third appearance as Rayne in the series, following the aforementioned, so-so The Dark Age and the jubilant Halloween, both from s2. Band Candy makes a nice companion to Halloween in that it’s another Ethan Rayne hysterical scheme teetering between mischievous and nefarious visited upon not just Buffy or the Scoobies, but on the whole of Sunnydale!
Ethan Rayne thinks outside the box!
That’s why Mr. Trick roped him in for Mayor Wilkins’ caper, though, in all honesty, is it really necessary to mount such a grand-scale operation to kidnap four fucking babies? Couldn’t they have just focused on the hospital, or even just the neo-natal ward?
And I’d have guessed that the demon Lurconis would have been hungrier than just a day’s worth of newborns, but that’s indeed all that the vampires wheel down into the sewer for his feeding. I wasn’t quite prepared for the demon to be a dinosauric snake, but I wasn’t displeased. In an episode that aimed big, the finale didn’t hold back. I am never one to moan about dated special effects, and I’ll say that the CGI Lurconis rather impressed me considering this is a 1998 low-rated show on the WB. And Buffy’s gas line solution to averting Giles’ imminent fate as snake food showed her to be especially resourceful. (She’ll pull another stunning trick out of her Slayer hat next week in Revelations to defeat Gwendolyn Post!)
And Band Candy isn’t done giving. We’ll get another dose of it in Earshot when Buffy discovers what really happened on the hood of that police car. Twice. Has chocolate ever been so sweet?
Buffy’s predilection for jackets as evening wear apparently comes from her mother. Giles boldly acquires the black number that the window shopping Joyce finds so “Juice Newton,” a reference that manages to date both her character and the members of the audience who recognize it.
And yes, the jacket is kind of Juice Newton.
Principal Snyder shows off some of his martial arts moves, and while they don’t rival Buffy’s or Faith’s, they do offer a special appeal, one that stirs visions of Don Knotts attempting karate chops as Mr. Furley on Three’s Company.
Am I the only one who sees the teenage Giles/Ripper as very much Faith? Teen Buffy is positively circumspect compared to Ripper, who, like Faith,practices a philosophy of “want, take, have” (the aforementioned Juice Newton jacket) and tends almost automatically toward violence not necessarily as a means, but an outlet. Maybe Giles should have stepped in to save Faith since the two are kindred spirits separated more by a generation than gender or Slayerhood!